Dacia: a budget brand with classic premium traits

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The Dacia Sandero Access, Britain’s cheapest new car, doesn’t have a radio as standard. That’s partly why it’s so cheap.

It does, however, have a radio pre-wiring kit: behind the blanking plate in the dash lies a gathering of wires leading to the wiring loom, the aerial on the roof and two blanking plates in the doors.

All you thus need to do is join the 18 year olds at the Halfords wall of sound, choose a banging stereo and two booming speakers, and then revisit your youth by getting out the wire crimpers and installing new ICE in your new wheels.

But does the fact it has a radio pre-wiring kit, not a radio, remind you of anything?

Yup, 1980s German cars. Back then, BMWs and Mercedes rarely had stereos as standard, which is why almost every period road test of the time will mention the generous inclusion of said kit instead.

Or, better still, reference the ‘dealer option’ stereo in the spec panel: a few hundred quid extra to get a contemporary Blaupunkt in the dash. Which, again, is a bit like today’s Dacia – the UK press fleet Access has £250 of extra radio already fitted…

It’s a cute retro reference. But the parallels with 80s and early 90s German metal run deeper. Yes, they too were usually really basic, with all the stuff buyers now (and, probably, then too) take for granted sitting on the options list. Central locking, alloys, electric windows, all were £147.32 extra here, £283.51 on top there (remember when price lists contained sums in pennies?).

Today, we’re celebrating the Sandero’s simplicity, but in a way, it’s a return to how things were for savvy premium buyers then – enjoying the car itself, rather than the bits that come with it. The product, not the packaging.

Many commentators are today mentioning that the lack of gadgets on the Sandero isn’t too much of a stark omission, because the car itself is so good. Now, as then, you’re buying and enjoying the engineering, not the gadgetry.

It may not be premium, but it’s a classic case of a for-the-times marketing bullseye.

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